Lt. Cooper Hawkes

Birds .


I knew. The moment I saw that ,I knew.

That was how things were supposed to be.

That's when I asked them my question.

I was foolish enough to push further, to ask what I now know , is the fatal question.

"Who monitors you?"

And in that act, I was marked 'defective'.


Been in trouble all my life. Could say that I'm one of those people who give tanks a bad name, not that natural borns think real well of us anyhow. Nipple neck. Tank. That's me. Cooper Hawkes. I'm a Marine, just like any of the other 4 million grunts shipped out into space. Just one of the guys. Another GI Joe. Yeah, right.

I'm an invitro. An artificially gestated human being. My 'parents' could have been mere foetuses -- they might have never existed, or they could be nameless, faceless strangers even to one another. IV's only have a 75% survival rate when we're decanted , so life pretty much is against my kind from the beginning.

I was made in a special facility for a special purpose. Elites. The first thing I was taught about life was how easily it can be lost. 687 number of ways to kill a human. Pretty hard to forget a statistic like that.

Selection and enhancement made me what I am. But who I am is still written in the stars.

So you might ask what am I fighting this war for? After all I didn't ask to be born into a world that hates me. What sort of duty have I got to the Earth? What kind of obligation can they claim over me? So what would I die for?

Family? Ain't got none. Not since Kate .

Kate was my sister. I never knew her but I felt it when she died y'know? So what was that about? I mean all we shared was a strand of DNA. And by some fluke that I don't know if I should be glad for or if I should curse, I got to see her. But I didn't get to hold her. I chose between us in the end; my survival and those of my mates, or her life. I chose me. Was that selfish? I dunno.

Missed chances suck .


Home was first some huge white place where the monitors awarded you if you were good and 'erased' you if you didn't follow orders .

Monitors are those natural borns who act as jailers, teachers, and everything else, to the In Vitros. To question their authority is unheard of.

To be different or ask too many questions, is sure to bring nothing but trouble. But I didn't know that.

I never thought it was weird that I was watched 24 hours a day or that it wasn't normal to be told to do things. Even simple things, like dreaming. First time I actually did something I wasn't told to do, it felt so good although I knew I wasn't supposed to.

That made me wonder. If it felt so good to look out a window at the sun and see the grass and the people and the trees... how could it be wrong? Why was it forbidden? And that got me thinking about the birds.

So who monitors the birds?

And then 'home' was the streets. Now that was okay, coz I knew what was what. I'm big and tough, and I fight dirty, so I win lots of arguments. But then I made a big mistake and got caught. The judge in Philly thought he was doing me a favor drafting me into the Corps. I didn't think so, then.

Well I got used to it, sitting when I'm told to sit and eating only when they said I could. It reminded me of the monitors except the Marine Corps's more in-your-face. They shout, they scream, they make you do push-ups, but at least they don't try to kill you .

Friends? I guess the Five-Eight are my friends. They would die for me; I dunno if you'd call that friendship. Maybe part of it's duty, but I like to believe that they like me a little too .

Shane? Man ,if it weren't for the Rules and Protocol! She mothers us a lot .At least that's what the other guys keep telling her to stop doing, and I never had a mother before, so that's nice. But I don't think of her as my mother , no siree.....less said about that the better.

Wang's good to me. He takes his time to explain stuff. He likes baseball. A lot. One time he got his parents to send him a huge old wad of dirt from Wrigley Field. Is that what families do? I think I'd like for someone to send me some dirt too. Or anything else. I'd just like to know that someone cared.

'Phousse. You'd never really guess that under that sweet face is the heart of a Marine. She's so brave. She can see Death. We face it every day but we never look straight down Its eyes. I don't know what I would've done if I suddenly could see what she sometimes does.

Nathan. We share a lot in common. Not in an obvious way, but in the ways I think are more important. He's lost people he cared about, in this war. First his fiance and then his brother. I've lost one I never even had the chance to know. And I lost a friend from bootcamp who was the first naturalborn to treat me like I wasn't subhuman. But maybe Nathan had the worse deal since he doesnt know whether Kylen's alive or not, and even then if she were, would it be such a blessing....if she were in the hands of the Chigs? And then Neil, the way he died.....was it worth it? So what did he die for?

And then, there's the Colonel. My Commanding Officer. And an InVitro. I used to think he was just another IV lapdog. But I don't think so no more. That guy proves himself to me and all the naturalborns each morning he wakes with the reveille. He doesn't have to be here, not like me... but he is. Don't need no loyalty test to tell me what I hear in his voice. No vid crew's gonna capture on film just how much he sacrifices for us, for me, for each tank that was ever called lazy or stupid or disloyal. I think that's very important to him.

Honor. Because when you die, the worms get everything, except your honor. That, you weren't born with. That, you fought for. That, you earned. The Colonel said that to me one day.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I respect him and I trust him. He'd put down for us, no matter what. He never gives up. Not even when we were missing and presumed dead, and that happens a lot in our situation, our job. He believes in us, and that's kinda scary too. And the way he believes in what this war is about...that makes me believe too. That we can win, that we must win, that there's something worth fighting for.

Something to fight against. So many things for us tanks to fight against onplanet. Bigotry, discrimination, hatred, fear, suspicion. The Chigs were just another one.

I never used to wonder about the Chigs; they were just 'the enemy', a convenient monster that spooked us. Yes, even us Marines, got scared. Because they were the unknown, and being in the forces and it being war and all, we're monitored all the time. What we dont need to know, we dont get to know.

Propaganda videos they took of me and The Colonel, making like we had it so easy here. No, even in the Marines, I got my problems and they come in all shapes and colors. People. Can't do nothing about it.

Chigs? I never really thought what being a chig was like, until that time on Tigris. I used to think ,hell! They were the enemy right? They come in my laser sight, I shoot them till they spooge the ground. Simple.

But it ain't so simple.

Coz what I saw on Tigris made me see, made me ...understand, that being a chig was no different than being a human.That Jack-Chig that let me live, was just as scared as I was. We knew there was nothing to gain from killing each other, and so much to lose. And though I couldn't look into his eyes or anything, I knew he didnt mean me any harm. Or he didnt want to hurt me if he wasnt forced to.

Coz I'd read in that book about nude dead people, that if you could look into your enemy's eyes, see his face, that it made so much more sense when he put that bullet in your brain. Personally I don't know about that. Its like that poem McQueen read us before we flew the chig plane into the Chig colony. Suicide missions. The honor and all that, of the ultimate sacrifice. Bushido, the warrior's way. It sounds great and all....but I gotta tell ya, it dont cut much ice with me.

I didnt want to die. Not on that damn planet. I was alone, chigs were crawling all over, Col Colquitt was dead, it was Black Ops and no one knew where I was. And I still had a mission to complete. One that involved going underwater.

They never did tell me about how that would be like. Being in water. I was scared, but being a Marine, I did it. No-how, no-way is anyone gonna say Cooper Hawkes was a coward. Can't let the 58th down, can't let McQueen down. I can't let myself down. Ye'see ...I've gotten used to expecting things of myself. Acting a certain way. Guess that comes with being a Marine. The Corps does change you.

What happened to me on Tigris, with that Chig, no one will know, coz I won't tell. He gave me a piece of him, and I gave a piece of myself when we exchanged our tags. In that one heartbeat, we were...connected . We weren't alike, we weren't looking for understanding, but we were connected.

The way stars in the sky are connected to the stories we believe of them.

Never went to school none, but I do know quite a lot about stars; mostly coz Wang knows a lot, and he talks a lot. Yeah, he says there's a story to all of them, twinkling in our heaven .

That's just like the chig and me. We have a story too, 'cept no one knows.


What is it that I'm fighting for?

I honestly can't tell you.

All I know is, I want to be able to look out into the sky and see those birds up there. Flying.

So maybe that's what I'm fighting for.

The birds.

The end

© Copyrighted 1997

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